Management Article

Venkatesh Shankar’s picture

By: Venkatesh Shankar

A quarter of a century ago, on July 5, 1994, a company that shared a name with the world’s largest river was incorporated. It sold books to customers who got to its website through a dial-up modem.

It wasn’t the first bookstore to sell online. (Books.com launched in 1992.) But it behaved like a local store, whose shopkeeper knew customers by name; a bell even rang in the company’s Seattle headquarters every time an order was placed.

Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, set his sights on making it an “everything store.” The company would go on to become not just an everything store, but an “everything company.”

Today, 25 years later, Amazon has reshaped retailing permanently. It is one of the top three most valuable companies in the world, with a market capitalization hovering around $1 trillion, greater than the GDP of nearly 200 countries.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Industrial Custom Products (ICP) is a world leader in prototyping, developing, and manufacturing high-quality OEM and custom thermoformed and vacuum formed plastic components, as well as die cut and dieless knife-cut parts. What makes ICP unique among its competitors is its award-winning quality, on-time delivery rate of 99.5 percent, and a dazzling 22 ppm reject rate.

As an ISO 9001:2015 registered company, ICP is serious about quality. In fact, ICP has been awarded the Polaris Industries Award of Excellence a whopping eight times in a row. How does this company do it? One contributing factor is investing in appropriate technology and infrastructure to reduce bottlenecks that increase the cost of quality and reduce profitability.

Investing in infrastructure

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

A recent family biking vacation in the Dolomites region of Italy had my family and I all swept up in the charms of Northern Italy. Snow-capped peaks near the Austrian border, endless apple orchards, award-winning Chenin Blanc, and quaint Italian villages with healthy doses of affogato (strong espresso coffee meeting with gelato is sheer genius) made the 250 km fly by.

By the time we ended our trip in Riva del Garda, we were mentally separated from the harsh Minnesota winter and ready for the summer. We couldn’t stop talking about the outfitter (Scottsdale, Arizona-based Pure Adventures) that arranged this active vacation. However, when my wife got an email with a $500 referral incentive from them, she was reluctant to exercise it, despite many colleagues expressly asking us about the company that arranged this trip. She did not feel comfortable getting a substantial reward for something her friend or colleague did.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

For decades, relatively easy access to space and the big profits to go with it have dangled elusively just over the horizon. With a little more R&D money and a few more advances in the technology, the thinking went, space would be ours.

Are we there yet? More than a few signs are pointing in the direction of a robust, varied space age of viable commercialization—as well as more audacious goals than we’ve seen in generations.

On the practical side, advances in reusable rockets, lowered per-launch costs, and miniaturization of satellites are opening up business opportunities well beyond aerospace and defense, and into IT hardware and telecom, according to Morgan Stanley. The global space industry is expected to generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in 2040, up from the current $350 billion, according to a recent report by the firm.

Victor Prince’s picture

By: Victor Prince

If you work long enough, you will have a micro-managing boss or two. These bosses think they know your job better than you do. Maybe they had your job before they got promoted to management. They focus on how you do your job instead of on the results you produce. They think that because you are doing your job differently than they would, you must be doing it incorrectly. Micro-management is a big driver of dissatisfaction and attrition in the workplace.

Barrett Thompson’s picture

By: Barrett Thompson

A hot topic of conversation for many B2B industrial companies is the talent and skills gap due to the generational shift in the workforce from baby boomers to millennials. According to Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, “Too many employers are sleepwalking toward a significant skills problem that risks derailing their business strategy if not addressed. Not enough organizations are thinking strategically about workforce planning or even enough about the make-up of their workforce.”

Generational skills gap causing a quality gap

Recruiting and retaining millennials for sales teams is often cited as a primary concern. As baby boomers retire and exit the workforce, decades of quality experience, product, and market knowledge leave as well. Loss of quality is often the impact of this workforce transition on sales teams.

Multiple Authors
By: Sameer Hasija, Vivek Choudhary

One fine morning in 1909, Henry Ford made a surprise announcement during a company meeting. In the future, Ford Motor would stick to a single car model, the Model T, in black only. No other choices, or as he said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” The lesser-known part of the story is the reaction of the sales executives present: They were livid.

As Ford put it in his biography: “I cannot say that any one agreed with me.” In fact, equally unimpressed with his decision that the car would be affordable, observers started wondering: “How soon will Ford blow up?”

Of course, we now know that Ford was onto something. The Model T sold for another 18 years, and additional colors returned only in the last year of production. Ford pioneered standardized mass production with its single-minded goal of minimizing operating costs. The Model T came in black because it was the hue that dried the fastest.

Brian Lagas’s picture

By: Brian Lagas

‘Why are our changeovers taking so long?”

If you’ve asked this question on the shop floor, more than likely you were met with blank stares by your employees. Open-ended questions like this are overwhelming, so employees try to find quick answers that don’t really address the problem. They don’t have a starting point to form an answer.

But what if you asked a question with a specific, achievable goal, such as:

“What steps can we take to reduce changeover time by 15 minutes?”

You’ve then provided your employees with a measurable goal in the form of a question. Your workers may feel empowered to answer with some hands-on suggestions for incremental changes, such as reducing setup steps or combining workstations. This in turn could not only reduce changeover time, but also significantly eliminate wait times and inventories.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

CEOs are stepping forward to confront public policy issues that often extend beyond their core business, in part at the urging of their employees, write Caroline Kaeb and David Scheffer in this opinion piece. Kaeb is co-chair of the Business and Human Rights Pillar and a senior fellow of the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton. David Scheffer is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

Jennifer Rosa’s picture

By: Jennifer Rosa

It takes more than a flashy website and clever promotional emails to compete in the manufacturing marketing arena. Chances are, your larger competitors are pitching similar products and services to the same client base. Your company’s industrial solution may be to offer state-of-the-art features at a reasonable cost, but do these benefits really outshine your larger competitors? Why should a potential customer choose you from a sea of manufacturers? To stand out in the crowd, you must first define your company’s unique value proposition.

Taking the first step: How to define your unique value

A value proposition goes beyond delivering your promised products and services. Your unique value proposition should explain how you plan to solve your customers’ problems in a way your competitors can’t.

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